The Beginning of a Beautiful Partnership

We want to give special thanks to Marlene Allen of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Rochester, New York for sharing this story with us! Marlene has been a great resource for us here at All Our Children and we are so excited to watch the progress of school-church partnerships in Rochester.

Adopt School #8
The Creation of a Church School Partnership

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By: Marlene Allen
How can we reconcile the legacy of slavery with support to urban education?

This year parishioners at St. Thomas’ Church in Rochester, New York and members of the Anti-Racism Committee in our diocese found a way. Mostly by chance and, in a large way, through God’s will.

In early 2014, several members from our church and the Anti-Racism Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester organized a series of discussions at St. Thomas’. The program, called Aberash (an east-African word, meaning “giving off light”), included showings of The Diocese of New York Examines Slavery, Traces of the Trace, and July ’64 – a recount of the 1964 riots in Rochester. The films prompted heartfelt discussions and led us to seek ways we could repent for the legacy of slavery and racism in our community. We wanted to take action, but what was the right action for us?

Not long after the Aberash program a group of us attended the All Our Children conference in Baltimore. We were inspired by the AOC mission: In service to children, All Our Children promotes, supports, and strengthens effective partnerships between Episcopal congregations and under-resourced urban public schools. With our discussions fromAberash in mind we returned to Rochester encouraged that we could provide academic support at School #8 in the City of Rochester, New York.

School #8, or the Roberto Clemente School, is a K-8 school in the northeast area of the city.  The Rochester City School District has 67 schools, a population of approximately 37,000 students and is predominately Black and Hispanic.  Many of the children in the school face academic, social and economic issues. With volunteers from our church the “Adopt School #8” program launched in September.

Today there are 14 volunteers working as teacher assistants all day or half-day; tutoring specific students; helping out in the library; and accompanying students on field trips. The school administrators and teachers welcomed us with open arms. They provided an orientation, information materials about the school, and created a log-in book and picture identification for each volunteer.  A crucial feature of this program is parent involvement.  We are encouraging parents and children to visit the school together for activities and dinners with volunteers, teachers, and school administrators.

After starting “Adopt School #8” we reached out to the Deans of Monroe/Rochester District to talk about the AOC conference and let them know of our new school/church partnership. We learned of other churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester providing support to our urban schools and, with their assistance, we have formed a local steering committee with other churches in our diocese to promote and support church/school partnerships.  We are currently discussing the mission for “Rachel Rejoices”, our local partnership network, and have scheduled regular meetings through June 2015. We look forward to adding more churches and volunteers to help improve education for students in our city.